Taylor faces a tricky test in awkward Vazquez, writes Daniel Herbert
Rising Josh Taylor moves up in class to meet Miguel Vazquez in Edinburgh
BOXING fans are never happy. They spend most of their time complaining that fighters are matched too softly, then when one takes a tough contest - they criticise that too.
That’s the case with Scotland’s exciting Commonwealth super-lightweight champion Josh Taylor and his 12-rounder on Saturday (November 11) against Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez.
The fight, which tops the Channel Five-televised Cyclone Promotions bill at the Royal Highland Centre in Taylor’s Edinburgh hometown, is accurately billed “Risk vs Reward”.
Criticism surrounds not so much Vazquez’s ability - at 30 and as an ex-world champion (IBF lightweight) he represents a good test for the rising Taylor - as his style, which produces boring fights.
At 5ft 10ins and with long limbs, Vazquez boxes in a very awkward manner that is the polar opposite of the traditional Mexican get-stuck-in, left-hook-to-the-liver school. His nickname “Titere” (Puppet) accurately describes the way he boxes like a puppet controlled by strings.
Miguel is the sort who can make an opponent look bad even when they beat him. The bout that saw him lose his IBF 135lbs belt to Mickey Bey in September 2014 is a case in point: Floyd Mayweather protege Bey won a split decision but the action was so dull that he didn’t get much credit and his career never took off.
Vazquez’s six subsequent fights (five wins, one points loss to later Luke Campbell points victim Argenis Mendez) have been low-key affairs that haven’t included one title shot or even eliminator. That underlines the point: few want to fight Miguel unless in a contest ordered by a sanctioning body.
So all credit to Taylor and his team for accepting an opponent most prospects would swerve. The talented southpaw Scot and trainer Shane Mcguigan will surely have been working hard on a strategy to overcome the problems posed by Vazquez and not only beat him, but also entertain the TV audience.
Saturday’s fight is for the WBC Silver bauble, which earns the winner a high ranking with that organisation. And with the outstanding unified champion Terence Crawford moving up to welterweight, there will be plenty of title opportunities at 140lbs in the near future.
Taylor has already made quick progress considering he turned pro only 26 months ago and has had just 10 fights. In the last year he has won the Commonwealth title by stopping Dave Ryan in five rounds and retained twice, last time (in July) by walloping Ohara Davies into seventh-round defeat in a grudge match.
He also found time to make his US debut in Las Vegas and while it wasn’t his best showing - it was the only time he has been taken the distance - he still outpointed Alfonso Olvera handily in their eight-rounder. It was useful experience for a man who had been knocking over opponents early.
Now Vazquez represents a test of a much higher order. The Guadalajara man has mixed in top class for a long time: amazingly, his debut came against Saul “Canelo’ Alvarez (then 15) was back in 2006. Vazquez lost that four-rounder on a split decision and while Canelo outscored him over 10 in 2008 it’s hardly a black mark given what Alvarez has done since.
The other setback from Vazquez’s pre-world title days was a 10-round loss to Tim Bradley in 2007. Only world class performers have beaten the tough Mexican, and if Taylor is to add his name to that list he must combine the hurtful punching he showed against Davies (whom he floored twice) with the refined skills that made him a top amateur, winning Commonwealth Games silver in 2010 and gold four years later.
The betting here is that Taylor will, although he’ll have to show patience early on before stepping on the gas in the middle rounds to build a lead he will still have come the final bell.
On the undercard, promising local star Jason Easton, 10-0 (6), takes on Czech Republic’s Josef Zahradnik, 9-0 (4), in a super-lightweight 12, Northampton’s Chantelle Cameron, 3-0 (2), fights Mexico’s Edith Ramos, 6-1-1, over 10-twos, while there is a pro debut for Edinburgh bantam Lee Mcgregor, who competed in this year’s European and World Amateur championships.
THE VERDICT Taylor must be at his best for this gamble to pay off.
FULL CREDIT: Taylor is proving he’s not afraid to take chances